Opencast launches shares scheme to give employees a stake in firm’s future success

North East technology consultancy Opencast is to give a third of its shares to its employees to give them a greater stake in its future success.

The move to launch a share options scheme will see Opencast founders Charlie Hoult and Mike O’Brien – both 50% shareholders until this point – effectively give away a third of their shares to colleagues.

Opencast’s new enterprise management incentive (EMI) scheme intends to give all of its people a stake in the business to reward loyalty, career progression and the growth of the business, as well as preserve the independence of Opencast as it grows.

The Newcastle-headquartered business is issuing share options to all its staff, in exchange for a nominal payment of a fraction of a penny per share, in the coming month.

Opencast is on an growth trajectory that has already seen it increase its revenues 55% in the past year, reaching 200 staff this year.

Co-founder Mr O’Brien first launched the firm in 2012, moving into a small office at Hoults Yard, Byker, armed with just a laptop and a mobile phone. Within three years the IT services and business consultancy specialist had grown to a team of 35 experienced software and IT professionals, a workforce which has increased to 200 this year.

Opencast’s revenues have also risen, and to meet growing and increasingly complex client needs, it aims to have a team of 500 by 2025, with revenues of £50m.

At present rates of growth, by 2025 the share options will be worth around a year’s take home pay to everyone working at Opencast today – assuming those people stay in the scheme and take up their share options.

Co-founder Mr O’Brien said: “Charlie and I started the Opencast business 10 years ago with a mission to challenge the traditional consulting model, by putting our people at the heart of all our thinking. From our start-up through to today, we have lived and breathed that mission.

“Rather than giving venture capitalists a stake, we’re giving our own team priority so that we can stay staunchly independent.”

Fellow co-founder Mr Hoult said: “We are delighted to have received the official HMRC approval that our scheme needed. This isn’t the slim slice many companies fanfare as empowering colleagues – we hope we are making a big statement for the whole team to share in the growth of Opencast. It’s central to our ‘good team work’ culture.”

Unveiling the scheme this week, Opencast chief executive Tom Lawson said: “We value the hard work of our people – and we want them to stay with us for the long term. By offering our people the chance of a future stake in our business – we hope they feel incentivised to contribute fully.

“Opencast’s EMI scheme is entirely in line with our vision and mission for the business: potential made powerful.

“Share options are the cherry on the icing on the cake – because we’re supporting our team with great career development, top-end salaries and fascinating tech work, like our recent support for HMRC in helping build its online pandemic services.”

Opencast is using leading UK digital share scheme platform Vestd to manage its EMI scheme. Vestd is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

All Opencast staff will have an ‘option holder’ dashboard on Vestd, where they can review the details of their options at any time.

Credit: BusinessLive

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